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The Guessing Game and Other Stories
handsfree
manforester
It's bee two years. The stories don't end, and I'll try my best to keep recalling them.

It was one of those early breakfast conversation on the islands where you talk about career, life, and pop culture. Religion, the health care system and politics were reserved for late night conversations.

How old are you?

The guessing game went on for a while. So I tell them.

They're shocked. You don't look your age-- I thought you were older. No, no, it's not because of your looks, they assure me. You're just so calm and you carry yourself well. Uh, thanks, I guess.

I have a friend in his thirties, they tell me, who wishes he was 18 again.

She laughs. Why would you want to be 18 again? I'm so glad I'm through with that phase! And I'm embracing turning 30.

These days, I'm reminded a lot of what I was like when I was 18. Impatient. Naive. Idealistic. And a lot of fighting with my mom. You wouldn't understand, was my default if I was too exasperated to argue with her. Or if we were frustrated and tired from all that fighting. We were both 2 stubborn individuals, each refusing to give in.

After every fight, she'd always text me the next day, asking if I needed a ride from school.

We were given two years. To prepare. Whatever that meant. And for one year after her death, she was still very present in our lives, mothering us from afar, protecting us as best as she could. My siblings and I played the game, "What would Ma say/do?" when faced with burning questions.

Two years later. The force field is frayed around the edges and holes are present for real world problems to enter. We're no longer invincible. Life happens and sometimes all you can really do is shrug your shoulders. Her voice isn't as clear as it used to be.

At 18, I was so sure I didn't need her. As my birthday approaches, I need her more than ever.

++++

These days I see a lot of water. I spend four or five days a week on a boat, hopping from one remote island to the next n Northern Palawan. I've seen some of the most amazing snorkeling spots in the world, and the best part is is, no one has seen this.

But today, I'm reminded of a particular Sunday. I desperately remember wanting to take a swim that day. This was something new, I never swim on Sundays. I needed to get away from the house and the pool was the perfect escape.

There's something about being in the water that puts your mind at ease. Where concentrating on your breathing allows your body to relax and slow things down. Whatever is happening on land disappears when you're underwater. There was nothing else there. No voices, no worries, just feeling the steady flow of the water rush through your body.

I must have lost track of time because as soon as I checked my phone, I realized I had a few missed calls and texts from my sibling asking where I was.

I panicked, rushed to grab my things and biked furiously home, already cursing each pedal stroke for not bringing me home faster. I would never forgive myself if I didn't make it home on time.

I arrived home and everyone was there, including my mom. This was typical of her, to wait up for everyone, even at her own expense.

I don't like swimming in pools on Sundays anymore.

+++++

"Ma, chill out." We watch her run all over the place, frantically.
"I am chilling out!" In her freaking out voice.
"Ma, you are so not chill." We laughed.
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